You’d think that all would be well, what with Napoleon now exiled to the distant tropical island of St. Helena, but Paris in July 1815 is a deuce of a mess. So now I must assist Lord Forgall, Wellington’s most secret spymaster, to quell any resistance while we get King Louis XVIII’s fat old backside firmly re-settled on the French throne.
“Of course, always glad to do my duty,” I told Lord Forgall (Forgall the Wily, as we diplomats call him). But under my breath, I added, “though we’d be a damned sight better off without that Irish fellow.”
The Irish fellow in question is Captain Stephen Killian. One of the Inniskilling Dragoons – they did their job at Waterloo, I’m not saying they did not, but like any other soldier, he’s only suited for rough and brutal tasks. So why on earth would he want to be a spy? Killian is a devil of a fighter in battle, they say, even though he’s not one of your huge, hulking types. He’s just of middling height, rather lean, and not even that good-looking. Average at best, easily lost in a crowd. Yet women fawn over him. Of course, they go completely giddy over any man with a strong jaw and a thick head of hair – let him cut a fine figure, and nothing else matters. Utterly frivolous!
Not that I would object to a touch of frivolousness in the lovely Miss Emma Forgall. Her inky black tresses and jade green eyes are fetching indeed, and her figure is perfection. She’s got that cold and regal air, but her father likes me. Given time, she’ll warm up to me, too. One would naturally prefer that such a beautiful young lady not be aware of State Secrets—you know how the ladies love to chatter, bless them!—but her father insists that she is the most skilled cryptographer he has ever taught. Still, there will be no more of that, once she’s married to me.
I don’t deny I was dismayed when Wellington made such a fuss over Captain Killian’s “heroism” for standing his ground on that Parisian bridge that General Blucher was trying to blow up. Wellington took such a shine to him, he ordered Lord Forgall to teach the Irishman spycraft and code-breaking. Naturally, the particulars of that task would fall to his daughter, Miss Emma.
However, old Forgall told me that his plan is to pretend to take Captain Killian under his wing while ensuring that the fellow is an utter failure at the job. I’ve heard Killian’s a wild man in battle – so he hasn’t got the self-control to be a spy. With any luck, he’ll be killed by that devilish Prussian assassin Wolfgang. I’ve seen Wolfgang dangling after Miss Emma, too, blast the big blonde brute’s eyes.
Maybe the two of them can slaughter each other, and leave Miss Forgall to me – now there’s a happy prospect!
One day, she will be mine. Until then, I’ll just have to keep my eye on her…
HER WILD IRISH ROGUE-coming October 2018
Miss Emma Forgall waved her fan lazily. “Where in Ireland are you from?”
“I’m from Macha’s Brooch,” Captain Killian replied, hands clasped behind his back and feet set sturdily apart. Somewhere in the back of the elegant Parisian ballroom, the orchestra struck up a tune.
Lord Parkington snorted. “Impossible. Macha’s Brooch isn’t a place.”
It’s a riddle, you fool, Emma wanted to say. Why wouldn’t Lord Parkington go away? Just because Emma’s father approved of him, that didn’t give him permission to act like he was her keeper.
She ignored him and thought about the riddle. In Celtic legend, the goddess Macha used the point of her brooch-pin to scratch the boundaries of the city of Ulster into the ground and made her vanquished enemies dig its fortifications for her.
Macha’s Brooch meant Ulster.
“Ulster is a great distance from Paris,” Emma remarked casually, watching Captain Killian’s face for signs that she’d gotten it right. “Where did you stop along the way, when you traveled here?”
He shrugged his wide shoulders. “We stopped in the home of the man who herds the cattle on the plain of Tethra.”
“The what?” demanded Lord Parkington, who still hadn’t gone away. The man simply never could take a hint. “What are you talking about?”
Another riddle. She was beginning to enjoy herself. Good thing she knew her myths – Tethra was an ancient guardian deity ruling over the waters, and the “plain of Tethra” was the sea. Therefore, the cattle of the sea were…fish. Captain Killian had stayed at the home of a fisherman.
“So your host was a fisherman,” she said coolly. “No doubt you had excellent fish for dinner?”
He grinned at her. “Most excellent fish.”
Right, again! Emma’s heart gave a little hop of excitement. She smiled back at him and asked, “And where did your travels take you then?”
“Simple enough,” replied Captain Killian. “We went over the Great Secret of the men of Dea, down the Great Crime, across to the Land of the Red Dragon, to the Ford of Oxen, and then to Caer-Lud. Then on to Lutetia.”
“What nonsense are you spouting?” Lord Parkington howled. “Surely you can’t pretend that you understand him, Miss Forgall!”
Emma waved a dismissive hand. She knew her Celtic mythology and her ancient Roman history. Besides, it was worth it just to see Lord Parkington’s purple-faced frustration.
“So, down the Boyne, over the River Delvin, across the sea to Wales, and then through Oxford to London. And here you are in Lutetia—or, as we call it, Paris.”
“Exactly.” Captain Killian nodded. “Now tell me about yourself.”
About the Author
Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. Her next book, coming October 2018, will be HER WILD IRISH ROGUE. It is part of the LEGENDS TO LOVE Regency romance series, with a protagonist based on the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain. She is working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first book in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com
Portrait of William Cathcart, 1st Earl Cathcart, by Thomas Gainsborough,
Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, by Robert Alexander Hillingford
Both in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons